It’s early July here at Saddle Mountain Hostel. We are at the beginning of what should be our busiest two months of the year. Only three short years ago we knew for sure that July and August were the busiest months, the time when the hostel would be packed every night with overseas (mostly European) visitors. However, two years of COVID related disruption, enforced closures and operating restrictions mean that we can no longer be certain of anything.
This is the first year since 2019 that we have been able to operate “normally” for the whole season. That has been a huge relief for us. So how has 2022 been for us so far? First of all, there is a huge sense of relief to be able to run the business as a genuine hostel once again. We have a dormitory room, we have communal areas where guests are able to socialise with each other and we have guests from outside the UK.
It’s hard to explain just how good this feels. We entered the hostel industry because we wanted to run a business where people from different countries and backgrounds could stay in a communal setting, meet each other and enjoy the great Scottish outdoors. We love our core UK walkers, cyclists and kayakers, and they (plus government help) are what has kept us afloat for the past two years, but we have missed our European friends. It is wonderful to hear other languages being spoken inside the building again.
Our UK outdoors crowd are back in almost their usual numbers this year. The overseas visitors haven’t quite reached their old volumes yet but we’re only part way through the season and we’re hopeful they will come.
There are definitely a lot of challenges ahead but our business has survived the pandemic. To all you hostellers out there, remember that the whole sector (independents and Hostelling Scotland) has had a terrible time over the last couple of years. We need your custom more than ever if you want us to still be here in 2023. Think twice before you wild camp or sleep by yourself in a van. Stay in a hostel and support a local small business.